Chemical found in state hogs

Chemical found in state hogs
By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg - Bee Staff Writer

The chemical linked to cat and dog deaths on two continents has made it into pig feed and perhaps onto California tables, with state agricultural officials announcing late Thursday they've quarantined a Ceres hog farm where lab tests showed melamine in pig urine.
"The farm is cooperating with us to determine the disposition of all animals that have left the premises since April 3," Richard Breitmeyer, the state veterinarian, said in a prepared statement. That's the first time melamine-tainted food is known to have been shipped to the farm.
He said the 1,500-animal American Hog Farm was quarantined "out of an abundance of caution."

Melamine has caused tumors in rats and shouldn't be used in animal feed, according to toxicologists.
The farm sells to both private individuals and others whom the state declined to identify, saying it is still investigating what happened to the pork. The state Health Services Department is urging people who bought pigs from the farm not to eat the meat until further notice.
So far, "evidence suggests a minimal health risk" to people who have consumed it, Dr. Mark Horton, the state's public health officer, said in the same press release.
The theory that Chinese suppliers put melamine in starches to boost their protein content, and thus command higher prices, becomes increasingly credible as melamine is found in more ingredients, said Stephen Sundlof, head of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine.
The FDA wants to probe that and other theories by inspecting Chinese factories, but Chinese officials have not allowed their entry, Michael Rogers, FDA's field investigations director, said Thursday.
"A number of letters" have been sent to China, Rogers said, adding that he expects Chinese officials will cooperate.
The FDA wants to learn how widely melamine has spread and which other products it might have contaminated.
That question became more urgent Thursday with reports from South Africa that corn gluten in Royal Canin pet foods there was contaminated with melamine, killing about 30 pets. The Web site for Royal Canin U.S. announced an eight-product recall late Thursday.
The South Africa report brings to three the number of Chinese products with melamine contamination -- wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate and corn gluten.
Veterinarians and nutritionists said that other potential targets for tampering could include whey protein isolate, soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, soy grits and soy lecithin.
All are pet food ingredients valued for the protein punch that they pack.
The melamine at the quarantined hog farm apparently came from salvage pet food sold as pig feed by Diamond Pet Food's Lathrop plant, the state said. Diamond had gotten rice protein imported from China by a San Francisco distributor who recalled it on Wednesday because of melamine content.
A man who answered the phone for the American Hog Farm late Thursday declined to comment, the Associated Press reported.
What little is known about melamine suggests its cancer-causing effects are limited. In studies, melamine caused bladder tumors in male rats but not in female rats and not in mice of either gender, said Dr. Stephen McCurdy, a UC Davis Medical School professor of public health sciences.
"I wouldn't argue that it's safe or that people should take a lackadaisical attitude toward their exposure," McCurdy said, but there's insufficient evidence whether it may cause cancer in humans.
Since the first U.S. recall more than a month ago, thousands of products from 100 brands have been yanked from the market. Thousands of dog and cat deaths are suspected.
The FDA has gotten about 15,000 consumer calls.
In the latest pet food recall Thursday, Blue Buffalo company pulled back its Spa Select Kitten dry food, in bags stamped "Best Used By Mar. 07 08 B."
The FDA confirmed Blue Buffalo was one of five companies that received rice protein concentrate from Wilbur-Ellis, a San Francisco distributor that recalled the ingredient late Wednesday night.
The company has shipped 155 metric tons of the suspect rice protein to five pet food makers since July. Neither Wilbur-Ellis nor the FDA would name them.
The FDA is checking which companies put the rice protein into pet foods. It expects those companies to issue their own recalls, Rogers said.
As the melamine investigations widen, a question haunting pet owners and regulators is how early the first tainted foods reached consumers, and whether previous episodes of contamination passed unnoticed.
"I am not so sure that this phenomenon is new," said Yorba Linda veterinarian Elizabeth Hodgkins.
"I honestly think pet foods have been making dogs and cats sick for a long time," she said.
Hodgkins, who testified at a congressional hearing last week, said it's less complicated to cook at home for dogs than pet food companies want people to believe. Home cooking for cats is a little more complex, she said, and people should seek advice.
Some vets recommend home cooking -- with professional nutritional guidance -- or specialty brands that avoid additives, at least until sources of contamination are tracked and eliminated.
Alternative pet food companies report being swamped.
In Elk Grove, Sheryl Gunter had about 35 people turn out for a free course on cooking for pets at her store, Corner Pet.
The Honest Kitchen, a San Diego pet food company, stepped up production and hired a person just to handle calls.
"We've seen about a fourfold increase in sales in the last four weeks," said Lucy Postins, who helped found the firm.
About the writer:
The Bee's Carrie Peyton Dahlberg can be reached at (916) 321-1086 or cpeytondahlberg@....